To me a garden is an extention of home, and once you have kids this means it is primarialy somewhere for them to play, grow and develop = toys slides, swings, paddling pools, bikes and the like. Economy over asthetics comes in at this point ie they are most likely to be bright plastic faded in third hand use but the kids don't care and may even prefer it to the hidden away fits with the garden furniture wooden stuff that you need a small mortgate to buy!
Secondly the garden is somewhere the family should enjoy - I favour eating outside which I start doing as soon as I can tolorate the cold and I only stop when the autumn winds start blowing the table over! This means things like BBQ's, tables, seats and preferably fiary lights. Given my own way there would be a perminent brick built thing with and eating bar and everything.
Thirdly the garden is for relaxing in, this means reading or sitting quietly and watching the bunny rabbit hop about. A nice summer house complete with bar would be the apex of this but again your looking at ouchy money and a 15 quid gazebo from Argos will do for now.
Fourthly - if there is room growing fruit and veg and maybe having a few ducks is the sort of thing I like. In times of food shortages, economic crises and war I would expect this to be bumped up to first.
Fifthly becuase I can I work in the garden as in drawing and writing.
And because I have children I would think it essential to give them little areas to plant flowers and vegetables - complete with garden fairies and boot flower pots. The tackier the better in my opinion as long as the kids like it.
This brings us round to garden appearance - this is not what I concider a high priority - it would be nice to have it all looking swanky but really I would be happy with just neat and tidy. To me flowers are like having matching couch covers and curtains - nice but not the sort of thing I'll fret over.
They are something you bother with once you've done everything else. Gardens should not be burdens they should be enjoyed.
Fithly to me a garden is somewhere you can if you have time and space bring a bit of nature to the man made landscape that is by necessaty our homes - everybodies because farms and gardens are not natural - they too are man made and managed. Gardens are one of the most artificial things there are - just think about the plants you grow there - most of them can't even produce viable off spring.
It's nice to bring nature in for the kids but again it has to be in a way that suites the persons time table and tastes.
Jean and Mary are lucky that they get to fish frog spawn out of the pond (well Jean does and I assume Mary will!) and jump streams but I feel that they should have within the context of the time and society we live in things like slides and swings. If I had my own way there would be a bark chip area specifically for this but I don't.